Why do we take part in hobbies, past times, and sport? Out of work activities allow us to get away from the stresses and strains of the real world and meet people in a social environment. We make friends, often for life, with people who share common interests and passion. Most of us will have then met someone who inspires us, improves us and we look to for support and learning. Sadly, with the passing of Tony Shortell life has one less person who has all those amazing talents. Tony inspired his fellow navy colleagues, his family, and friends plus all of those who shared a day flying models with Tony.
Tony’s love of planes took him into the fleet air arm and if you look at the list below, of full-size planes Tony piloted, he flew state of the art high performance military aircraft. Towards the end of this obituary, you will see a comment about Tony from the Captain of the aircraft carrier Tony served on. Words from a bye gone age but they say it all about Tony. Tony continued to inspire people as a pilot for BA and his role as a Training Captain.
Full size career:
Types flown: Tiger Moth, Prentice, Harvard, Seafire, Firefly, Gannet, Vampire, Meteor, Attacker, Seahawk – in the Fleet Air Arm including 122 carrier landings. Dakota, Viscount, Comet, Trident, Tristar. 11,682.35 hours total. A remarkable career which Tony was coy about! The only event he ever mentioned was a flick roll in a Seahawk. He mentioned this after landing having done some negative G manoeuvres with my model at Northwick Park. Tony stated that negative G scenarios gave him an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of his stomach since the flick roll that occurred in a formation of 4, with Tony on the inside of a tight turn. Years later, relating this to Tony in conversation, he explained that his leader in the formation was Captain Eric “Winkle” Brown who asked him if he was OK and upon confirming the order was to get back into formation!
Northwick Park MFC:
Tony, who was self-taught, started radio model flying at Northwick Park in the mid 70’s. He lived nearby and would mentor younger NPMFC club members on all aspects of model flying often from his garage workshop. He designed, built and flew many models, including an outstanding 6 engine Hannibal complete with cradle to air launch another model. Included at that time were gliders and a rapid delta. Often Tony would turn up in his British Airways Captain’s uniform straight from duty, both as a training Captain and with tins of Castrol 98 to brew fuel!

As with his full size flying career Tony taught many people to fly. He pioneered the use of the buddy box system at Northwick Park. He also loved to build planes that pushed the boundaries of his flying skill and aerodynamic knowledge. Tony’s favourite being high powered delta aircraft with jaw droppingly fast roll rates.

Sadly, for the modellers at the Northwick Park MFC a decision to move, due to retirement, took Tony to Wokingham and he joined a local club. As per usual form Tony’s impact on the club would be profound.

South East Berkshire RFC:
Having retired from BA in the early 80’s. Tony embarked on following his passion for “real flying” as Tony would say. Flying as much as time would allow. Tony’s local club were struggling to find a good field to relocated into. Tony worked ceaselessly to find a flying field for the local club. This turned into a great success with a new field being found and used for many years. Tony built and flew numerous model types including jets and an own design steam powered model. Tony assisted developing The BMFA achievement scheme as an examiner. More recently Tony was made a BMFA award for contributions to radio model flying.

Captain Tony Shortell - Epitaph – By Captain S H Beale; Captain of HMS Albion, January 1955.

This is to Certify that Sub Lt(P) E A Shortell has served as a squadron pilot in HMS Albion under my command, from 19th day of September 1954, to the 2nd day of January 1955, during which period he has conducted himself to my entire satisfaction as a competent pilot with natural ability for flying. A conscientious and thorough officer.